Skip to main content
Queen Mary Academy

Queer Issues in Medical Education – what happens when you start a conversation

Female Healthcare worker wearing a protective face mask and a face shield holding a gay flag looking up
Photo by Juanmonino
Dr Esther Murray profile picture

Dr Esther Murray

Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology

The iBSc in Medical Education was the first of its kind in the UK. In the last couple of years we have included teaching sessions on LGBTQIA health alongside those on sociodemographics. This means that conversations on increasing access to, and inclusivity in, medical education can go beyond those about social class or ethnicity and allow students to explore their own experiences of intersectionality - the multiple identities we all have which privilege or disadvantage us in different ways.

Responding to a need

The aim of discussing identity in medical education and the medical profession is for students to have the opportunity to explore the ways in which they define themselves and where there is space for these identities in medical school and in their chosen profession. As a result, we have been able to talk about representation, about the new movements to diversify and decolonise the curriculum and the challenges of culture change. The design of lecture and seminar material which explicitly includes opportunities for discussion about LGBTQIA health and intersectionality focuses on thinking about the ways in which we define ourselves, or are defined by society as healthcare professionals and as people, and about observing the ways these identities have been constructed over time and who they serve.

One student on the course felt empowered to write an essay on queerness and professional identity formation in medicine for The British Student Doctor Journal LGBTQ+ special issue.

I think the shift in power that, I feel, comes from recognising all this privilege is really what's allowed me to talk so openly about queerness. As well as other things, of course, like my amazing flat mate and, really genuinely, you and the MedEd course. I definitely wouldn't have been releasing an essay to the public about queerness a year ago - whatever's caused this change!
— Student, Intercalated BSc in Medical Education

Encouraging open and safe conversations

One classroom conversation about identity tends to lead to another so that we found ourselves talking about gender, appearance, religious identities and age. It is important for teaching staff to use the privilege we have to encourage open and safe conversations like these as part of thinking about professional identity formation. In this context the word ‘safe’ describes conversations where students know that the information they share won’t be shared anywhere else, or prejudice them in any way.

I designed teaching sessions which covered the influence of identity politics, and international political movements on medical education.  These groups discussions of up to fifteen students offer the opportunity to critically explore the terms we use to describe ourselves and others, consider their origin, utility and the ways in which they perpetuate power imbalances or stigma, not just for our patients but for ourselves as professionals and people. Students found that more openness in formal teaching allowed for more openness in informal conversations.

I remember after our clinical skills teachings at Robin Brooke, when we went to sit in a park or somewhere as a group, and we had some great conversations - on queerness but then, other identities. I think these were the first times that this was sparked by our shared education (rather than a personal look at identities or with close friends). So, it meant there was these conversations where we essentially discussed what we felt defined us and our identities (gender, religion, age, family...) and professionalisation - which at least I found interesting and, dare I say, 'educational’.
— Student, Intercalated BSc in Medical Education
Back to top